Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jed returns to Beverly Hills! (sorta)

Ortmeyer temporary solution at center, as Wild begin two-game SoCal swing; Barker claiming injury, so he doesn't become considered as trade bait?

Yeah, so I'm reaching. Sue me.

OK, so since we last sat down with each other, the following has occurred:

The Wild, achieved a 2-2-1 record in the last five games, five games where they really NEEDED to achieve points in the standings. They even managed to stay even with the Detroit Red Wings in front of a regional (wasn't national, folks; that comes later) NBC TV audience.

Vancouver showed the Wild why they were leading the NHL's Western Conference with a 4-1 thrashing at the Xcel Energy Center, in only the second loss by three goals since the New Year.

Chicago's United Center provided the setting for a bobblehead giveaway (Tony Esposito) but little else, as the Wild basically failed to show up for a 3-1 Blackhawks' loss in the Hawks' first home game in three weeks,

Mikko Koivu managed to break his left index finger while blocking a Todd Marchant shot in last Friday's game against the Anaheim Ducks. The Wild won, 5-1, despite playing one forward short for the final 52 minutes of the game.

Sunday, Todd Bertuzzi, reviled winger and scourge of Wild fans of all ages, played in his 1,000th NHL game, and absolutely NO acknowledgement of that fact to the crowd at the 'X' during the game whatsoever. 'Big Bert', the evil-doer of note, fired the game winner in the shootout, but the fact that the game actually WENT to a shootout gave hope to Wild fans, despite the 2-1 Detroit win.

Tuesday was 'defenseman's offense night', as six separate defensemen accounted for two goals and four assists in the Wild's 4-1 thumping of the Edmonton Oilers, the 15th straight time the Wild has defeated the Grease in St. Paul. Included in the blue line salvos was a rare goal by ex-Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster, with his first goal since Dec. 1, and the first goal for the 'Minnow', diminutive rookie Jared Spurgeon, playing against the team the Edmonton native idolized growing up as a child.

So now what? Do they stay with bringing up kids, such as Cody Almond, current call-up from the Houston Aeros? So now what do they do, after the Koivu injury?

One does not think that journeyman center Jed Ortmeyer is the answer, but the ex-Shark, Pred and Ranger will get more ice time with a big NHL club, but for how long? Who knows? Ortmeyer was signed earlier this month to a two-way contract, so he gets one pay rate at the NHL level, and another, lower pay rate at the AHL level. The Wild need centers, as they will criss-cross Southern California in the next three days, with only two of their normal four centers (John Madden, Mark Cullen) available, as they take on as vicious a road trip as the NHL can dream up, with back-to-back games at STAPLES Center vs. the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, and the Ducks at Honda Center on Friday night.

Now, will the Wild have Cam Barker to kick around after Monday's trade deadline? That's yet another question facing the Wild, as the return to the ice of Marek Zidlicky has created a temporary 'glut' of defensemen, as Barker has now become the odd man out, with the solid play of Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner, another Houston call-up who doesn't miss the seafood and sun of South Texas. Barker now claims an injury, and yes, indeed he was NOT on the ice for most of last night's Edmonton game; but with all the defensive shuffling and high level of play that the Wild defense has become noted for lately, the fact that Barker has played himself into the 'odd man out' role, speaks volumes for what Barker has done...also for what he HAS NOT done.

Now, we all realize that GM Chuck Fletcher is absolutely loathe to trade away draft picks and/or prospects for basically 'rent-a-players', but will his hand be forced to do at least a little of that as the Trade Deadline, of Monday Feb. 28, 3 PM Eastern Time approaches?

Trade speculation: that's why the hockey media exists, isn't it, folks?

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